Faf du Plessis had made it almost halfway through his 24-minute press conference at Cape Town International Airport on Monday when Voldemort’s name came up.
When it did‚ he smiled and sighed and spoke from the heart: “I’ve been enjoying the fact that we haven’t had a lot of AB de Villiers questions lately‚ but I’ll let you have one.”
The question‚ of course‚ had been whether there was any chance of De Villiers — who shocked the global game in May when he announced his retirement from international cricket — would play for South Africa at next year’s World Cup.
“AB would have to be the one to change his mind. It was his decision to retire‚ so if he had a change of heart …” Give him a deadline‚ then‚ skipper.
“We would like to be picking our best team by the Pakistan series [in January]‚ so we would need to know before then.”
Du Plessis reached for a metaphor to make his point: “Victor Matfield retired from international rugby and he came back. Nobody would have thought he would ever come back.
“AB is a world class player and it was AB’s decision to retire. If he wanted to come back it would need a discussion but it’s his decision. It won’t come from the team.”
Reminded that De Villiers himself has in recent days seemingly disputed that point‚ saying the question of whether or not he would play for South Africa again was “not in my hands”‚ Du Plessis said‚ “I didn’t retire‚ so I can’t unretire.”
It was enough make those of us looking from the outside in wonder if the famed friendship between Du Plessis and De Villiers was not as firm as advertised.
“The conversation I had with him was that he was done with international cricket‚” Du Plessis said.
“He was very convincing‚ and it was pretty obvious to me that I couldn’t change his mind.
“The decision was made way before the conversation we had.”
It seems worth pointing out that there are 23 centimetres of separation between the heights of De Villiers and former Springbok lock Victor Matfield.
But they loom as large as each other in their respective spheres.
Would the Boks want Matfield back for the 2019 World Cup? Considering he will be 42 by the time the tournament kicks off‚ probably not. But the possibility would merit serious discussion.
Would the Proteas want De Villiers back for the 2019 World Cup? No brainer.
“I have experimented‚ I have pushed the boundaries of magic further‚ perhaps‚ than they have ever been pushed.”
That’s Voldemort. It might just as easily have been De Villiers.